Seeking a quiet area of the zoo to breastfeed her 13-week-old son, Elizabeth Hunt Burrett ended up next to the glass of an orangutan enclosure. When a mama orangutan came over to watch, Burrett’s own mother captured a touching photo of the unlikely trio, which Burrett posted to Facebook on Tuesday. It has since been picked up by news outlets and shared from her personal page nearly 160 times.
Burrett’s post reads: “Just wanted to share with you all this amazing breastfeeding experience. While celebrating my daughter’s 3rd birthday at the Melbourne Zoo, my 13-week-old got hungry while we were in the orangutan enclosure. I took him into a quiet corner away from the crowd to feed, then this happened. … This mummy came to investigate and she watched the whole feed. It was the most beautiful thing!”
There were actually two orangutans that Sunday interested in Burrett and her son. “It started out with just one,” she told Radio 774 ABC Melbourne. “Then another came over who seemed to be a bit older than the first one. She gave me a bit of a nod — it was absolutely amazing. Then the other one came back and watched the whole feed,” which lasted about 10 minutes.
The mom of two has redheaded children, and she wondered if the orangutan came over to see if she was breastfeeding one of the apes. “I thought it was funny,” said Burrett.
In addition to being tickled, Burrett was very moved by the experience. “I had a lot of trouble [with breastfeeding] at the beginning, and I wasn’t able to do it with my first [child],” she explained. “I felt so proud, and I felt like [the orangutan] was proud of me. It was just amazing.”
When asked if she felt a genuine connection with the ape, Burrett said, “I did. I really did.”
On Facebook, the mom also posted, “I’m very happy to report that there was not one nasty comment made about me feeding in public.” In fact, the comments on Burrett’s photo are filled with awe and appreciation. “That is such a special moment. Lucky you. It’s a beautiful photo (of the 3 of you),” said one person. “Proof that BF is as natural as it gets. Beautiful!” wrote another.
The curious apes may have been feeling a maternal kinship with Burrett. Orangutans are known to have a very strong mother-child bond, and infants stay in touch with their moms for a long time, according toOrangutan Foundation International. “Orangutan offspring will sometimes be carried until they are 5 years old and be breastfed until they are 8 years of age,” reports the site. “Probably only humans have a more intensive relationship with their mothers.”